03/31/2009 11:00PM

Record time gives Researcher a Classic shot


With a purse of up to $1 million, the inaugural Charles Town Classic on April 18 is certain to lure some major talent from out of town, including graded stakes winners Commentator and Macho Again. But there s also a locally based horse who merits serious respect.

Researcher, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Jeff Runco, tuned up for a possible start in the Classic by breaking the track record for 1 1/8 miles last Saturday night.

Racing over a muddy track that had been sealed, and facing just three rivals in an allowance worth $40,000, Researcher romped by 22 1/4 lengths, completing the nine furlongs in 1:49.76. He shaved .12 of a second off the mark of 1:49.88 set by Cherokee s Boy in October 2005.

Researcher earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 106, a point higher than he received for his victory in the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct last December.

In 10 starts locally, Researcher has 6 wins and 3 seconds. As a Grade 3 winner, Researcher would compete for a $600,000 purse if he runs in the 1 1/8-mile Classic.

Trainer Nick Zito has said Commentator, who as a Grade 1 winner would be eligible for a $1 million purse, is being pointed to the Classic.

West Point Thoroughbreds, on its website, lists the Classic as the probable next start for Macho Again, winner of the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 14. He would compete for a $750,000 purse.

Nominations for the Classic and the $250,000 Sugar Maple for older females close on Saturday. The Classic card will include three other stakes the $100,000 Blue and Gold for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs, the $100,000 Webb Snyder at 4 1/2 furlongs, and the $50,000 Salerno at seven furlongs.

One race before Researcher s track record, Maryland-based mare Cowgirls Don t Cry established herself as a candidate for the Sugar Maple by winning a seven-furlong allowance by 1 3/4 lengths.

It was the first start for Cowgirls Don t Cry since she was eased in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park last August. She won the Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont Park last May.

Based at the Fair Hill Training Center with trainer Mike Trombetta, Cowgirls Don t Cry earned an 83 Beyer for her win last Saturday. That puts her in the same neighborhood as another Sugar Maple possibility, Weathered, who got a 90 for winning last Saturday s Grade 3 Next Move at Aqueduct.